Mobile Phone Data

Task Team of the UN Committee of Experts on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics

Introduction

The statistical community has the obligation of exploring the use of new data sources, such as Big Data, to meet the expectation of the society for enhanced products and improved and more efficient ways of working. Use of Big Data could also support the monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by improving timeliness, frequency, detail and relevance of indicators without compromising their impartiality and methodological soundness. The reports of the UN Committee of Experts on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics (UN-CEBD) to the Statistical Commission (E/CN.3/2015/4, E/CN.3/2016/6, E/CN.3/2017/7, E/CN.3/2018/8 and E/CN.3/2019/27) provide additional background to the work of the task teams.

Mobile phones are used by large parts of the population in all parts of the world, and it is thus expected that Mobile Phone data could fill data gaps worldwide. In its 2018 "Measuring the Information Society Report", ITU shows that the average mobile subscription rate is 107.0 per 100 inhabitants world wide, with a lower average in Africa (76.0). Nevertheless, these numbers show how pervasive mobile phone use is. ITU elaborates that mobile phone use in rural areas is generally lower than in urban areas, and this should be considered in studies using Mobile Phone data, but it is clear that the coverage of these data is global. Almost every person in the world lives within reach of a mobile-cellular signal.

Objectives

Given the wide-spread use of mobile phones in developed and developing countries, and in urban and rural areas, and against the background of a need for detailed statistics for policy purposes, including data to monitor the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, this task team should develop methodology to get complementary information and quality checks of SDG indicators using mobile phone data, particularly on usage of mobile phone data to facilitate the monitoring of orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people (Target 10.7) as well as to monitor tourism as an enabler of economic growth and creator of jobs (Target 8.9). Further, based on the methodology developed, the task team should conduct capacity workshops and trainings, awareness raising events and projects that could illustrate how countries could benefit from the use of mobile phone data.

Deliverables

The Task team aims to achieve the following goals from October 2019 to December 2020 in three broad areas:

  1. Methodology, standards, training materials, e-learning course
    1. Develop and document methodologies and standards on using mobile phone data for statistical applications (Tourism statistics, Migration statistics, Population density statistics, Commuting statistics, etc) based on projects and workshops conducted in 2018 and 2019
    2. Develop training materials, including an e-learning course
    3. Prepare synthetic data that could be used by countries during trainings or in the Global Platform
    4. Prepare a second Handbook based on new activities (see below).
  2. Projects
    1. Develop quality checks using mobile phone data on SDG indicators, such as
      1. SDG indicator 5.b.1 Proportion of individuals who own a mobile telephone
      2. SDG indicator 9.c.1 Proportion of population covered by a mobile network;
      3. SDG indicator 17.8.1 Proportion of individuals using the Internet;
    2. Conduct the project in Georgia measuring migration and domestic tourism using a combination of mobile phone and traditional data. Expand on other areas of statistics that could potentially benefit from the use of big data.
    3. Conduct projects in interested countries as a follow-up to the ISI side event, including in Timor-Leste, Samoa, Malaysia, etc). This will be done in collaboration with other partners.
  3. Delivery of Trainings, Workshops and Awareness raising
    1. Conduct a regional training workshop on the use of mobile phone data in the margins of the Bali Annual Telkom International Conference (BATIK), 16-20 March 2020, Nusa Dua, Bali
    2. Contribution to a GWG session at the ITU AI for Goods Summit on the use of Big Data, 4-8 May 2020
    3. International Conference of the UN Global Working Group, 12-14 May 2020, Seoul, Korea.

Task Team members

Countries

  • Colombia
  • Egypt
  • Georgia
  • Indonesia
  • Italy
  • Korea Republic
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Oman
  • Philippines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • UAE

Agencies

  • Eurostat
  • IOM
  • IMF
  • ITU
  • EU-JRC
  • UN Global Pulse
  • UNSD

Other

  • Flowminder
  • GSMA
  • Positium
  • Telenor
  • University of Tokyo, Spatial Data Commons